Posts Tagged ‘death’


XIII Death. Tarocchini of Mitelli, drawn by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli ca.1664 for the Bentivoglio a noble family of Bologna.

Bibliothèque Infernale on FB

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“The King of Kings,” from D. Lambden Fleming, Life and death, or, The Creeping Shadow, A Lecture, Silent But Of Sovereign Power.  Philadelphia: self-published, 1873.  pg. 330.

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Frontpiece from D. Lambden Fleming, Life and death, or, The Creeping Shadow, A Lecture, Silent But Of Sovereign Power.  Philadelphia: self-published, 1873.

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Thomas Nast, “On the Red Danube – Bless You, My Children", from Harper’s Weekly, (June 16, 1877), pp. 464-465.  Wood engraving in black on newsprint.

The outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 as seen by Nast and Harper’s.

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Miklós Vadász, ‘Mors Imperator.’ L’Assiette au beurre, June 15, 1907. Source.

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The Triumph of Death (details) ~ Bruegel the Elder

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Manuel Orazi (French, born Italy, 1860-1934), Le lieutenant de Saint-Avit et la Mort [Lieutenant de Saint-Avit and Death], 1920-21. Gouache on paper, 113.5 x 154 cm.

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“In this dream, I found myself making love to a strange man. Only I’m having trouble you see, because he’s old… and dying… and he smells bad, and I find him repulsive. But then he tells me that everything is erotic, that everything is sexual, you know what I mean? He tells me that even old flesh is erotic flesh. That disease is the love of two alien kinds of creatures for each other, that even dying is an act of eroticism, that talking is sexual, that breathing is sexual, that even to physically exist is sexual. And I believe him, and we make love beautifully.”

– Nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry) to Roger St. Luc (Paul Hampton), Shivers ( (aka They Came From Within, The Parasite Murders). Screenwriter(s): David Cronenberg. CFDC, 1975.

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Death riding a lion from Des dodes dantz. Lübeck, 1489. Information here.

“O mynsche dencke wor du bist her ghekomen vnde wattu nu byst. unde wat du schalt werden in korter vryst.”

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“Some of the scenes detailed in You Can Stop are more gruesome and alarming than those in From Here to Eternity, a testament to the fact that living can be so much uglier than dying. A peaceful passing is more pleasant to imagine than is Lamas’s description of a young mother undergoing a lung bypass while awaiting a transplant: She’s awake for weeks while her blood streams from a large catheter in her groin and is deposited back in—through a second large catheter, in her neck—after it’s been oxygenated. Lamas quotes a colleague who says of this procedure, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, “In the scope of what we do to humans, this is the kitchen sink.” And truly, it is a dramatic encapsulation of the extremes of human capability—awesome and terrifying and brutal and crafty, all at once.

These polarities are apparent throughout Lamas’s book. She shows caring, committed professionals toiling to deliver modern miracles for desperate families. But she also uncovers much evidence of the conviction that because death is so heinous, there are virtually no limits to what we’ll do to stave it off. This is a type of death cult, too, one in which those closest to passing away are kept from it by measures that preclude comfort and peace. Doctors are very good at stabilizing a body in acute crisis but cannot always heal it once it’s been pulled out of that death drop. The chronically critically ill spend a lot of time weak and delirious, in intense discomfort while locked between death and recovery. And why? Probably to spare their loved ones, or perhaps because they are unlucky enough to have a doctor who doesn’t make clear the unlikelihood of meaningful improvement.

But one minor moment jarred. “It has become taboo to mention dying,” writes Mannix, and like Doughty, she’s half right. When it comes to the deaths of those we didn’t know well, we often speak in euphemisms. When we’re anticipating the deaths of those we love, the intensity of imminent sorrow makes direct conversation hard to bear. (As Mannix shares, she’s seen people come very close to wasting their last moments with their beloveds because they couldn’t bring themselves to admit that the end was near.) But for an American millennial like me, mentions of death are nearly inescapable. To my peer group, Mannix’s suggestion that “you can begin a legacy that calls death by name, accepts that it is a part of life, and encourages others to do likewise” is a little squirm-inducing; I don’t know many people who need more encouragement. Death is already on my Facebook feed, where a friend recently posted that she was back home after a suicide attempt and where another acknowledged the one-year anniversary of a sibling’s attempt that had achieved its goal. It’s in viral tweets from ailing strangers who beg congressmen to vote no on a bill that guts Obamacare. It’s in my conversations with other childless friends about the nearly unfathomable rapidity of climate change. In 2017 it felt like death was draped over every day.

We want to die as we want to live: free from pain, connected to people we love, with agency and dignity. Modern life doesn’t just rob us of those joys in the final weeks, when age or disease draws death near; it threatens them even when we’re in what’s supposed to be our prime. We’re all conscripted into a death cult by a society that demands nearly endless work for nearly no reward, that shrugs in the face of mounting addiction and mental-health crises, that accepts schoolchildren having to practice active-shooter drills and dying from afflictions that could be cured or managed, if only their families could afford to do so. When these psychic and somatic burdens pile up, the strongest tethering force is the urge to stay present for others—the same instinct seen in so many pre-death patients who are determined not to desert their children or spouses or parents until the time feels more right. “There is all that love to be communicated,” Mannix writes, as she coaxes her readers to think now about what they’d like to communicate before they die. Yes; then there is all that love.”

– Charlotte Shane, “Nowhere Fast: Three books confront the inevitable.Bookforum, Feb./Mar. 2018.

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“The researchers ended up identifying more than 1,000 genes that were still functioning even days after death, but it wasn’t like they were taking a bit longer to sputter out than the rest of the body – they actually increased their activity.

In mice, 515 genes were seen kicking into gear, and were functioning at full capacity up to 24 hours after death. In the zebrafish, 548 genes retained their function for four whole days after the animals had died before showing any signs of winding down.

The team figured this out by measuring the fluctuating levels of messenger RNA (mRNA) present in the mice and zebrafish as they died, and up to 96 hours afterwards. MRNA is kind of like a blueprint – it tells our genes which proteins need to be produced by which cells, so if there’s more mRNA in a cell, that means more genes are currently active.

What’s maybe even stranger than that is the fact that these ‘postmortem’ genes weren’t just any genes, they were the kind of genes that ramp up during emergencies.

As Mitch Leslie reports for Science Magazine, we’re talking about tasks like stimulating inflammation, firing up the immune system, and counteracting stress. Some of the genes they identified usually switch on to help form an embryo, and then are never heard of again… except after death, apparently.

“What’s jaw-dropping is that developmental genes are turned on after death,” Noble told Leslie.

It’s not all beneficial genes, though, the team also found that certain genes that promote cancer growth also sparked after death in these animals, prompting the researchers to suggest that in a newly deceased corpse, the body reverts to the cellular conditions of a rapidly developing embryo.”

– “Hundreds of Genes Spring to Life Up to 4 Days After Death, Scientists Find,” Science Alert. June 23, 2017

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